Exclusive: National Teaching Service plan lacks ambition, says Pisa chief

Government plans to parachute expert teachers into struggling schools need to be far more ambitious to be successful, according to Andreas Schleicher, the official who runs the influential Pisa global education rankings.

The National Teaching Service is due to begin in September 2016 with 100 teachers and leaders working with “underperforming” schools in the North West of England. The aim is for the pool to grow to 1,500 teachers and leaders over the next four years. Government statistics show there are currently more than 476,000 teachers working in England’s schools.

Mr Schleicher, director for education and skills at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, told TES: “If the perception [from teachers] is that ‘I am helping the government to solve a short-term skill shortage’ I don’t think you’ll get the level of support you need. It’s better than nothing, but unless you change mindsets, it’s hard to see it will be successful.

“You will only see it is successful if you make it systemic, because teachers need to see it as real,” he added. “Teachers need to see that taking on a tough class, taking on a tough school is really something that leads to improving the profession and improving their careers.”

Those who sign up for the National Teaching Service will be offered a package of support and a clear path to promotion. Posts will last up to three years.

England has one of the largest differences in performance among 15-year-olds, according to Pisa (the Programme for International Student Assessment) – and this widened between 2009 and 2012. In 2012, only 10 countries had a greater difference between the average scores of the highest and lowest attainers in maths.

Mr Schleicher said that in Shanghai, which tops the Pisa table for maths, a spell working in a challenging school was expected for those who wanted to reach the top posts in education.

But headteachers in England warn that any incentives given for taking on roles in challenging schools would be overwhelmed by the disincentive of the high-stakes accountability system.

Malcolm Trobe, interim general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “We have to have a system that incentivises people to work in schools in challenging circumstances. It needs to be a carrot not a stick. It is no use someone going into a school because if they don’t go and work there then they can’t become a headteacher. We want people with commitment to go into schools in challenging areas.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Education said that the National Teaching Service was just part of its plan for professional development. She said: “We have empowered schools to lead on high-quality professional development for their teachers through the creation of a national network of teaching schools. There are now 700 of them around the country raising standards through supporting other schools, engaging in research and development, and ensuring that the most talented school leaders are spotted and supported to become successful headteachers.”

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This is an edited version of a story that appears in the 5 February edition of TES. Subscribers can view the full story here. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

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